WHAT DEFINES A HERO? // DISCUSSION

As bookworms, we are surrounded by fictional heroes. Our protagonists are also known as the ‘heroes’ of a story. Particularly in the adventurous genres of fiction such as fantasy and sci-fi. But what is it that makes these characters heroes? Are they perfect and honourable and good? Are they the flawless and powerful beings we see in superhero movies? Or is there more to it than that? I believe that there is.

Recently, I watched Batman Vs. Superman. The movie was by no means great or impactful – in fact, I was actually quite confused and conflicted – but it did, by the end of it, make me think of heroes and what actually defines one. Why did the movie make me think this? Because despite its poor cohesiveness in telling an actual story that made sense (and this is debatable as I could’ve just been really out of it when I was watching it), it challenged the representation of a hero.

This takes me back to Jasper Jones, a book I read back in high school (WHICH BY THE WAY WAS FANTASTIC). In this novel, the main character Charlie, and his best friend Jeffrey Lu, were having an argument over who was the better superhero – superman or batman. I specifically remember Jeffrey saying that batman was the better superhero because he didn’t need any special abilities to defeat the bad guys. He was an ordinary human with the capacity to be this vigilante hero.

SO, WHAT IS IT THAT TRULY DEFINES A HERO?

Is it their power and abilities?

I kind of agree with Jeffrey Lu on this one. Power doesn’t equate to being a hero. In fact, power has the ability to corrupt. Just because you have the power to crush concrete into dust with your bare hands, or be able to read the minds of everyone around you, or be able to shapeshift (I really only added that because I WISH I COULD SHAPESHIFT. AGH.), it does not make you a hero.  Power is dangerous and a big responsibility. In Batman Vs. Superman, this idea is explored. For a superhero movie, it takes a pretty dark tone and one reason for this is because they were exploring the ways in which power can affect those who possess it (well done for that, director!).

The people loved superman. Why? Because he could fly, he had super strength and could do things for people in which no mortal could – like saving them from getting squashed by trucks and bits of falling apart buildings or something. Batman was popular for his deeds in stopping the cities criminals and bad guys, the people who the police had not got around to (for whatever reason). In the movie, this is being twisted. Beginning with superman – as the public begins to turn a negative attitude on him, he turns bitter, looking for that fame and praise he once got for being the ‘hero’ that he was. It turned him to try to defame batman and try to put this ‘hero’ in the same position he was in. And this, the power struggle begins.

Ever heard the term: power-hungry? In the movie, this is what batman and superman were. They were power-hungry, looking to dominate one another to become the ultimate superhero, the one who the public praise for their deeds. Were they using their power for good? Heck no. They were using it to destroy one another, causing chaos in the city in the process. Power leads to fame and fame leads to an ego – not what you want in a superhero, really. At least, in my opinion.

Are heroes defined by their goodness?

When you think of a hero, generally you think of someone who is fighting for the good of the people. We associate heroes such as batman and superman as heroes because they fight the bad guys. Do we define a hero as someone who is completely good, righteous and pure? The movie, in a sense, challenged this: superman is this handsome, strong and powerful guy who is seemingly indestructible (besides his teensy tiny weakness to a glowing green stone). The people began to not admire him for this, but began to instead fear and detest him.

This leads me back to the debate of who is the better superhero: batman or superman? Once again, I refer to Jeffrey Lu and his excellent point that be made about batman. The thing is, I believe a hero is not defined by his perfectness or goodness. No one can be all good – just think back to books: we criticise characters who are written without flaws. It’s unrealistic. NO ONE is flawless. It’s our flaws that make us who we are. We make mistakes and we stuff up sometimes, but we get back up and we do what we believe is right. This is personally what I love in my fictional heroes. Someone who is flawed, definitely not perfect and has their weaknesses, but still stands strong in what they believe in. And in a way, Batman Vs. Superman again, explores this idea. Superman (or Clark Kent, I should say) goes back to his mother because people are criticising him (as superman, duh). His mother tells him: “You don’t owe them a thing – you don’t owe the world a single thing. Just do what you believe is right.” (or something along those lines… don’t quote me, my memory is horrible and this is the best I could do!)

And that marks the end of this discussion. Now, I’m putting the discussion out to you, my lovely bookworms!

HOW DO YOU DEFINE A HERO?

WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU THINK MAKES SOMEONE A HERO?

WHAT FICTIONAL CHARACTER WOULD YOU SAY IS THE ULTIMATE HERO AND WHY? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS, BOOKWORMS!

21 thoughts on “WHAT DEFINES A HERO? // DISCUSSION

  1. Pingback: April Wrap Up 2016 | My Midnight Musing

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  3. I love your discussion posts – they’re always excellent!

    To me a hero is someone who, despite their flaws, despite the awful things they may have been faced with, gets up and continues on bravely, that despite having a reason to be bitter and angry at the world, they aren’t. Someone who helps others, who is kind, who positively impacts somebody’s life, who lifts people up…that’s what defines a hero, in my opinion. 🙂

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  4. Great Post Josie and equally great discussion points.
    To me what creates a hero is their selfless acts and [obviously] how they save people, I wouldn’t say they necessarily have to be ‘overly good’ people. Take the upcoming film The Suicide Squad for example, they are criminals but they are ultimately heroes because they are going to be saving people. I think what makes a great hero is also if they are flawed, nobody is perfect but if the hero works through a difficulty to save someone that makes them even better. Another example is Jessica Jones – (Netflix Show) She drinks quite a bit, shes a personal detective and angry, quite snappy with people haha but she is a hero despite her past.

    I really liked your point on the power hungry characters and the power struggle, one character which immediately popped into my mind was President Coin in The Hunger Games. Originally we see her as being a hero, she wants to work with Katniss and the rebels for a revolution, she says she wants to save the people but at the end she ends up being very similar to President Snow. She simply wanted Power, her own bloodlust and need for revenge has already corrupted her.

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  5. I completely agree that power doesn’t define a hero! Great discussion post!! I was actually thinking of watching this movie! 🙂

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  6. LOVE this topic! I agree that heroes aren’t well defined and the same applies to villains too. I got reminded of The Young Elites, which I just finished reading and the characters can’t be categorised as heroes or villains. It’s mostly perspective based. 😊

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  7. Oooh this is such a great discussion topic! And I agree that power shouldn’t make the hero. After all sometimes it’s the quiet, unassuming person who rescues that kid or whatever, you know? I think everyone has the potential to be a hero and not just in loud ways! Like, to be sentimental, parents are “heroes” for raising good kids. And teachers are “heroes” for teaching kids how to handle the world around them and doctors are “heroes” for saving lives. SO. I think hero is just synonymous with = doing good for someone else with no immediate gain for yourself. (Except for the satisfaction of doing something good. XD)
    Omg I have NOT watched Superman vs Batman and I will not. xD Christian Bale is the only batman of eeeever. ❤ And I fell asleep halfway through Man of Steel so nopity no for DC and me. 😛

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  8. This is such an interesting topic for discussion! In my English class, we’ve just finished the book Heroes by Robert Cormier, and it explores similar issues. We actually had to write an essay on this very topic! In my opinion, I think a hero is someone who saves people, and who does good. It’s not about how much power they have; it’s all in their character. I think being courageous, brave, and selfless makes you a hero!

    Denise | The Bibliolater

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  9. Fantastic topic and discussion!
    I think as readers we are kind of suppose to root for the ‘hero’, but recently I’ve been rooting for the ‘villain’.

    A hero in my eyes is a person who does things for the good of the common person and I know my definition can be interpreted in many different ways but I guess a hero has to be selfless. That is a huge quality! I think a great example of a hero would be Harry from Harry Potter because though he isn’t the brightest wizard around, he is very brave, not to mention courageous and compassionate.

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  10. Such an interesting topic! In the aftermath of Batman vs Superman, there were many articles and memes that talked about how Snyder messed up the essence of Superman (presumably because he hates the character). I think they were right, and that Superman wasn’t the same guy that he was for so long in the comics. Perhaps because contemporary people just can’t fathom someone being that GOOD.

    For me, a hero is someone who is willing to make the difficult decisions, and someone willing to hold themselves to higher standards than they hold others. Someone with a degree of selflessness and empathy, and someone able to merge power with humility. Having an actual superpower isn’t it– people call firefighters heroes all the time, and they’re not wrong. Its about using whatever talent you have in scenarios where others would falter.

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  11. Great topic! I have not watched Batman vs Superman, but saw a few commercials and had no idea how they could put those two together as good vs bad, but your explanation now makes complete sense. I agree with Jeffrey Lu on this one that I like Batman better because he was just a normal human who became a vigilante hero. It is something that a normal human can expire to because no one is perfect.

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  12. Intelligent post! What especially got me thinking was the difference between a hero with powers vs. one without powers. If the person without special powers commits to helping people even though they’re at greater personal risk, does that make him/her a bigger hero? It’s interesting to think about.

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    • I was hoping that point would stick out! I’m glad you noticed it. It is indeed very interesting to think about! That difference between having a higher power or being the same as everyone else – if these two kind of people do the same thing (eg. Batman and Superman), is one better than the other? Is their physical strength and capacity important in defining them as a hero? Or is it their mindset?

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  13. This is such an interesting post! What defines heroes for me is people who defended the oppressed. Like all the marvel and dc superheroes, they defend humans that can’t fight back on our own against all the aliens and technology. But there are also heroes that doesn’t defend people, but they inspire the oppressed to fight back. Like Katniss, she doesn’t protect anyone (except for ones the closest to her) but she inspires the other district to rise against the capitol. Interesting topic Josie!

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    • I’m glad it was engaging for you! Yeah, you’re so right in saying that – being inspiring is totally a hero quality, I’d say. Being able to stir up a movement or a change and to impact those people, like you said, the oppressed, is what we want in a hero!
      Thank you! 😊😄

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  14. What an interesting subject, and what a great post Josie! I just love how you wrote it, it’s so well-thought. I have to say, I really believe that a hero isn’t defined by his abilities, his special powers or anything, even if that’s what we can believe in many tv shows, movies etc. In books, there are many heroes that have flaws, as you said, they are not perfect, they make mistakes, yet they’re still the heroes of their own journey. 🙂

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  15. I love this post, I think it’s a great topic for discussion! I agree that you don’t need to be powerful to be a hero, and I think that the better heroes are often the ones who grow into their human abilities and emotions, instead of developing bone-crushing strength or the ability to turn invisible!

    I’m reading Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare at the moment, and the way one of the MCs (Julian) looks after his family after a major tragedy, despite being so young, makes him a hero for me. 🙂 x

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    • I’m glad you like it! Yes you are so spot on with my opinion of a hero. Definitely, those who rose up and grow through the hard times and challenges are the people I see as real heroes.
      Oh oh! I really need to read Lady Midnight ASAP! I really want to see what happens with Emma and Julian and their story! Eep!
      Thank you for your lovely comment ❤️

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